Search for missing teen called off - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Search for missing teen called off

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Bruce O'Krepki (Source: Hammond Daily Star &  Johnny Chauvin Photography) Bruce O'Krepki (Source: Hammond Daily Star & Johnny Chauvin Photography)

By David Spunt - email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB/AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard ended its search Tuesday night for a Louisiana teenager who reportedly jumped off a cruise ship Sunday night.

Witnesses say 18-year-old Bruce O'Krepki jumped from the ship. The Coast Guard says it used boats and aircraft to search an area of nearly 5,300 square miles. "After an exhaustive search effort to find Bruce O'Krepki, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our active search efforts," Capt. Drew Pearson said in a news release. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday afternoon that several witnesses reported seeing the teen jump from the tenth floor of the Carnival cruise ship. The Coast Guard said there is no active criminal investigation underway because there is no indication of "criminal activity."

O'Krepki recently graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond, Louisiana and was on a senior trip with about 35 other seniors from his school. The Coast Guard did not disclose any information about what led O'Krepki to reportedly jump from the ship. O'Krepki left New Orleans on Saturday on the Carnival Fantasy. His parents, who were also onboard serving as chaperones, were flown home Monday evening.

The U.S. Coast Guard says O'Krepki apparently went overboard from the 10th deck of the ship about 160 miles southwest of Tampa around 9:45 Sunday evening. The cruise ship remained in the area for about five hours while the search was launched. The ship then continued sailing. It is scheduled to return to New Orleans on Friday. "It tears us apart, but we have to come together and do whatever we can do to support each other," said O'Krepki's friend, Heather Gonzalez. Friends say he was planning on attending LSU in the fall.

Bruce O'Krepki's uncle, Rick O'Krepki, issued a statement after news came that the Coast Guard had ended its search. "On behalf of the O'Krepki family, I express our sincere appreciation to the United States Coast Guard for their diligent efforts in the search and rescue operation. It is very comforting to know such a professional staff, including the personnel responsible for search craft and control room operations, was on duty to assist our family beginning with the initial distress call Sunday night. We are also thankful for the continued outpouring of support and concern for our family at this difficult time."

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